DIY Christmas Gifts Ideas: Part II

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Welcome to Part II of my DIY Christmas gift series. This is where I test out DIY Christmas gift ideas I would like to give this year and decide if the results are worthy of becoming Christmas presents.

In part I of this series I wrote about these simple and delicious cheddar cheese crackers. Check out the recipe here.

This week I’m going to test out a recipe I saw in the December issue of Cooking Light. I’m usually a big fan of this cooking magazine and I have to say this month’s issue is full of really great recipes. The recipe I’m going to show you is Intense Fruit Gelees (pronounced jellies). They are easy, delicious, and so very pretty!

Before I jump into this, a huge thanks to my mom and my sister, who not only helped me with making the gelees, but also agreed to be hand models for the post. Who knew, it was easier to take action shots when the one taking the pictures isn’t doing the action?

Intense Fruit Gelees

Recipe from Cooking Light Magazine (click here to view the original recipe)

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Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 3/4 cup fruit concentrate*
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup light-colored corn syrup
  • 1 (3-ounce) package liquid fruit pectin (such as Certo)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

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*A note on the fruit concentrate; Cooking Light suggested flavors such as tangerine, lemon, and pomegranate. They also recommended ordering some the puree or concentrate from www.perfectpuree.com. I used  grape juice concentrate and I think they turned out fabulous, and very rich in flavor. I am looking forward to experimenting with more flavors.

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After the ingredients have been gathered and the flavor of the gelee has been selected it’s time to prep the pan. Grab a loaf pan and line it with plastic wrap. Spray the plastic wrap with cooking spray.

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Next combine 1 1/4 cup sugar with the fruit concentrate, applesauce, and corn syrup in a large saucepan.

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Bring the mixture to a boil, then cook for 10 minutes (if you have a candy thermometer the temperature you’re looking for is 224 degrees F).

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After cooking the mixture for 10 minutes add the liquid pectin, bring to a boil, and cook for 1 minute stirring often.

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Remove the pot from the heat and pour in the lemon juice.

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Give it a stir.

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Then pour it into the prepared loaf pan.

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Tertius wants to know what’s going on up there and if he can have some.

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Let the mixture cool and then cover and let it sit overnight in room temperature. In the morning you have a delicious, gelatinous, fruity treat. Does that sound unappetizing? I promise these taste amazing, or as my sister put it; “It’s like a mini grape pie in my mouth.”

Now that the mixture is solidified, let’s cut them up!

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First, sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar on the top of the gelee.

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Next, tip your loaf pan upside down, the gelee will flop right out. Get rid of the plastic wrap. Then start slicing up the gelee. My sister recommends starting in the middle, then cutting in the middle of that half, followed by cutting down the middle of the two sections and so forth. Can ya’ dig it?

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They look pretty already!

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Next put the remaining sugar in a small bowl and slice the columns of gelees into cubes and toss into the sugar to evenly coat them. I suggest keeping the cubes on the small side, these are sweet, rich candies.

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The verdict: these rock! They are absolutely scrumptious and I will definitely be giving out little boxes of these as gifts this year.

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Intense Fruit Gelees

Recipe from Cooking Light Magazine

Ingredients:

  • cooking spray
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 3/4 cup fruit concentrate*
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup light-colored corn syrup
  • 1 (3-ounce) package liquid fruit pectin (such as Certo)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Directions:

Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap and spray with cooking spray. Next, combine 1 1/4 cup sugar with the fruit concentrate, apple sauce, and corn syrup in a large saucepan.

Bring the mixture to a boil, then cook for 10 minutes (if you have a candy thermometer the temperature you’re looking for is 224 degrees F).

After cooking the mixture for 10 minutes add the liquid pectin, bring to a boil, and cook for 1 minute stirring often. Remove the pot from the heat and pour in the lemon juice. Give it a stir. Then pour it into the prepared loaf pan.

Let the mixture cool and then cover and let it sit overnight at room temperature.

To de-mold and cut up; first, sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar on the top of the gelee. Put the remaining sugar in a small bowl and set aside.

Next, tip your loaf pan upside down, the gelee will flop right out. Get rid of the plastic wrap. Then start slicing up the gelee into cubes. I suggest keeping the cubes on the small side, these are sweet, rich candies.

Toss the gelee cubes into the sugar to evenly coat them.

 

Thanksgiving at the Ciminelli House

Thanksgiving is only a few short days away and I thought it would be fun to stroll down memory lane of Thanksgivings past. Fun fact; Thanksgiving is actually my favorite holiday. Why? Because of all the food, of course! Thanksgiving has almost always been hosted at my parents’ house and although we all pitched in with the cooking the last few years I have been helping out more and more with the cooking and baking of Thanksgiving dinner. Our pie situation has grown exponentially since I’ve become more involved with the planning and preparations. Shocking, I know.

Let’s kick this off by taking a quick look at last year; Thanksgiving 2011

The peaceful calm before the guests arrive and the eating starts.

My dad always carves up the turkey.

My cousins Gabriel and Audrey and Aunt Diane. I can’t even stand how much Gabriel and Audrey have grown up. I would like to also note that Audrey is taller than me. I know this is shocking to no one in particular since I am in fact a shorty, but I share this because, Audrey is very proud of this. Every time she comes over she gives me a big hug and then steps back to see how tall she is compared to me.

Audrey comes in for a closer look at the turkey carving

I made four large pies and four mini diabetic-friendly pies.

I promptly ate them all. Oh Thanksgiving, I’m so happy you are just a couple of days away.

How about Thanksgiving 2009? We traveled down to Stafford, Virginia to have Thanksgiving at my Uncle Mike and Aunt Karen’s house. Now there is something you should know about us.

We’re inflatable turkey people. And even when we travel to other relatives’ house, the turkey comes with and is set up in their lawn.

Here’s my Uncle Mike carving up the turkey

And this is my Mom and I taking over the kitchen to make pies. We’re pretty serious about pie.

I have to admit this is one of my more photogenic apple pies. Even as a pastry chef, sometimes even my pies look a little abstract. However they always taste awesome and that’s what counts. Need a recipe for some rockin’ pie crust? Try making it with vodka (click here for the recipe).

This is me and my cousin Carolyn. I absolutely made her crouch down for this photo, she is at least 3 feet taller than me.

“Ahhh no more photos!”

“Just kidding, you know I love making goofy faces for the camera!” P.S. Could I look like a bigger creep in this photo?

Now for funsies let’s hop all the way back to 2003;

A big group for Thanksgiving 2004 including my Nana. I think about her a lot but even more so during the holiday season.

My sister still had her short hair.

Oh, wait so did I. Ok, next time I start thinking about short hair, someone please stop me! Also this pictures Gabriel who is  super grown up now (see Thanksgiving 2011 photos) and going to school at Westpoint. My cousin Carolyn is sitting next to me. She is still at least 3 feet taller than me.

Uncle Mike and my cousin Christina, who is also a grown up now. And at least 5 feet taller than me. Also she is hilarious.

And here’s Audrey!

Judging by Uncle Paul and Gabriel’s post-dinner comas, I would say dinner was a great success. Also, how much do you love our old couch?

It’s fun to reflect on Thanksgivings past. It always makes me smile to look back at the times shared with both family I get to see every year or only every few years. I am looking forward to Thanksgiving this week, and in case you are wondering (I’m sure you’re dying to know) I will be making 5 pies this year. And it was tough to narrow it down to 5.

Need some recipe suggestions for Thanksgiving?

Try my family’s Cranberry relish

These fabulous pumpkin muffins

This delicious and addicting caramel popcorn

Or this incredible no-fail pie crust.

I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving this week.

 

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DIY Christmas Gift Ideas: Part I

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I know this is crazy seeing as it’s not even the end of November, but I’m already thinking about Christmas gifts. I am a last-minute person and I always have been. This applies to all areas of my life including studying for exams, writing articles, planning Halloween costumes, and most certainly extends to shopping for Christmas gifts. So let’s just say that this year, I’m trying to do things differently.

This year I want to try to make as many as my gifts as I can. (Spoiler alert to those of you on my Christmas list!) However, some of the ideas I have, I’ve never made before and therefore the recipes must be tested, so why not write about their success (or failure) and share the recipes with you!

Here is Part I of my series on DIY Christmas gifts.

Cheddar crackers

Recipe adapted from Real Simple Magazine

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Ingredients:

  • 2 c unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 c grated cheddar cheese*
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 4 c all-purpose flour**
  • 1 c Rice Krispie cereal
  • 1/4 c chopped bacon, optional
  • 1/4 c chopped jalapeno, optional

Directions:

*Note: what really makes these crackers is the cheese (duh!), so choose your cheddar carefully. I’m a Cabbot girl myself, so I went with Cabbot’s Seriously Sharp Cheddar and grated it myself before starting the dough. Personally, I think it’s worth the extra effort to grate the cheese yourself than to buy a pre-grated package.

**Note: some easy flour substitutions can be made; using whole wheat flour, or a combination of whole wheat and AP flour. Almond flour could also be used for a gluten-free version.

To get started beat the butter, grated cheese, and spices using a hand or stand mixer. Once combined add the flour and cereal. If opting to add bacon and/or jalapeno to the crackers toss them in too. Mix for 1-2 minutes on a medium-low speed until the dough starts to come together.

Now for the easy part! Dump the dough out onto a large sheet of wax paper. Form the dough into a log and roll up in the wax paper. (Square or round? Whatever floats your boat!). Next, put the log of dough into the fridge to chill for 1-2 hours or until firm. (Quick Tip: don’t have the time? Chill the dough in the freezer for 30-40 minutes instead.)

After the dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 350. Unroll the dough from the wax paper and cut into slices that are at least 1/4 inch thick. Place the slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 18-20 minutes. The crackers should be a light golden brown color.

Store at room temperature in a sealed container for up to 1 week.

Warning: This recipe makes a lotta crackers. My test groups yielded about: 50 per a batch (although this will vary depending on the size of the log).

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The Verdict: Yum. Yum. Yum! Just call me Clara Ciminelli: the killer of diets. These were awesome. Make ’em, share ’em, love ’em!

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Cheddar crackers

Recipe adapted from Real Simple Magazine

Ingredients:

  • 2 c unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 c grated cheddar cheese
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 4 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 c Rice Krispie cereal
  • 1/4 c chopped bacon, optional
  • 1/4 c chopped jalapeno, optional

Directions:

Start by beating the butter, grated cheese, and spices together using a hand or stand mixer. Once combined add the flour and cereal. If opting to add bacon and/or jalapeno to the crackers toss them in too. Mix for 1-2 minutes on a medium-low speed until the dough starts to come together.

Dump the dough out onto a large sheet of wax paper. Form the dough into a log and roll up in the wax paper. (Square or round? Whatever floats your boat!). Next, put the log of dough into the fridge to chill for 1-2 hours or until firm (or chill the dough in the freezer for 30-40 minutes instead).

After the dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Unroll the dough from the wax paper and cut into slices that are at least 1/4 inch thick. Place the slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 18-20 minutes. The crackers should be a light golden brown color.

Store at room temperature in a sealed container for up to 1 week.

Happy Halloween!

Hey y’all, seeing as today is Halloween, I thought I would share some lovely Halloween cookies I made recently for a customer. He ordered 3 dozen square cookies so here is a sample of some of the designs.

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I hope everyone has a happy and safe Halloween!

It’s a Lovely Day for a Guinness

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Happy 3-days-’till-St. Patty’s-Day everyone! In celebration of this upcoming holiday I’m sharing my recipe for Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes.

This is a recipe I developed last spring when I was getting ready for Cupcake Camp Boston. The cupcakes were a big hit at the event and my co-workers enjoyed testing out the cupcakes as I worked on the recipe.

However, before I get started on this recipe, I want to take a second to talk about my mixer. The stand mixer that I had been using for the last few years died on me a couple of weeks ago. One of my roommates was using it to make pizza dough and it just stopped working and never turned back on. But do not frett, I have a back-up mixer! And no harm came to said roommate, because honestly, I knew the mixer was on it’s way out.

Behold my new-old Sunbeam mixer!

Ah yes, gaze upon it’s retro-lovlieness, it’s creamy avacado color. And check this out, the different mixing levels are labeled.

I got this fabulous new-old mixer from Mary, one of my coworkers from Pearson. Aside from my parents I believe Mary to be my # 1 fan. Thanks again, Mary for this fantastic mixer, I am so happy to have it!

Ok, onwards to the delicious Guinness cupcakes. This is pretty simple recipe, and yields 28 tasty, moist cupcakes. Here’s what you’ll need;

  • 1 bottle of Guinness (12 oz)-room temperature
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 c sugar
  • 2 c flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 c sour cream

Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees and preparing cupcake pans with liners. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and set aside to cool slightly. The butter should be melted completely, but not piping hot. Next, in a small mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

Using a stand or hand mixer, combine the Guinness, melted butter, and vanilla extract.

Next add the eggs one at a time.

After the eggs, add the sour cream to the mixture, and mix until the ingriendents are thouroughly combined and the batter is smooth. Finally, add the dry ingredients to the batter 1/3 at a time.

Pour the batter into the lined cup pans and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the pans and bake for another 10-12 minutes. The cupcakes are finished when they are slightly risen and domed, and set in the middle but still soft and tender.

Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting. I suggest using your favorite vanilla buttercream or a whipped cream frosting. And enjoy with a tall glass of Guinness. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle of Guinness (12 oz)-room temperature
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 c sugar
  • 2 c flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 c sour cream

Directions:

Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees and preparing cupcake pans with liners. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and set aside to cool slightly. The butter should be melted completely, but not piping hot.

Next, in a small mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

Using a stand or hand mixer, combine the Guinness, melted butter, and vanilla extract. Next add the eggs one at a time and mix to combine.

After the eggs, add the sour cream to the mixture, and mix until the ingredients are thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth. Finally, add the dry ingredients to the batter 1/3 at a time.

Pour the batter into the lined cup pans and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the pans and bake for another 10-12 minutes. The cupcakes are finished when they are slightly risen and domed, and set in the middle but still soft and tender.

Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with an Elegant Champagne Cake

*This article was originally posted on www.Somerville.Patch.com*

This cake is light and fluffy and infused with a rich champagne flavor

This elegant white cake has both an excellent flavor a light, fluffy texture—a perfect dessert to make for your Valentine. Though much champagne doesn’t go into making the cake, without any other flavors present it retains a lovely champagne flavor. The flavor is greatly effected by the kind of champagne selected. I recommend a sweet Moscato sparkling wine.

On the scale of cake textures, heavy cakes such as pound cake being on one end and super light, fluffy cakes such as angel food cake being on the opposite end, this cake falls towards the lighter end of the texture spectrum. This cake falls into the category of chiffon cakes, which are not quite as light as angel food cakes, but still very light in texture. What qualifies this cake as a chiffon cake is that the last step for making this cake is folding the batter into beaten egg whites.

The key to success with this cake is retaining as much air as possible during the mixing process. After adding the champagne to the batter, do not over mix; mix until all ingredients are just combined. This recipe also calls for sifting the dry ingredients onto a sheet of wax paper. This way, when it’s time to add the dry ingredients they can be added by simply picking up the piece of wax paper and pouring it into the bowl, rather than compressing the ingredients into a measuring cup.

The last step to this cake, which creates a light, fluffy texture, is gently folding whipped-up egg whites into the batter. When separating the eggs, be careful not to get any of the yolk into the whites. If there is any yolk present, the whites will not whip up because they will not whip up with the presence of any fat. Also, be sure to beat the egg whites in a metal mixing bowl, and when combining the egg whites with the batter, be sure to use a spatula to fold them in, rather than stirring them in with a spoon or whisk.

If you are feeling particularly caught up in the spirit of Valentine’s day add a few drops of red food coloring to the cake batter to create a soft pink hue to the cake.

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Champagne Cake
Ingredients:

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cups white sugar

3/4 cup champagne (or sparkling wine of your choice)

6 egg whites

Preheat the oven to 350 and generously grease an angel food cake pan or a bunt cake pan. Next, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt onto a sheet of wax paper and set aside. Using a stand or hand mixer, beat together the butter on medium speed until the butter lightens in color and becomes slightly fluffy. With the mixer running, slowly add the sugar and continue to beat until combined and the mixture has increased in volume by one third.

Lifting up the sheet of wax paper, pour one third of the dry ingredients into the butter and sugar mixture and combine on a low speed with the mixer. Next, pour in half of the champagne. Continue to alternate between the dry ingredients on the wax paper and the champagne until combined. Be careful not to over-mix. Set the mixture aside.

In a separate metal mixing bowl, beat the egg whites with a hand or stand mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently fold one third of the stiff egg whites into the cake batter. Once combined, continue to fold in the egg whites in one third at a time. Be careful to use a folding technique so that the cake retains a light and fluffy texture when baked, do not stir in with a spoon or whisk.

Pour the batter into the greased cake pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. The top of the cake will be golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake will come out clean when the cake is finished. After the cake has finished baking, invert the pan on a sturdy glass. If you do not invert the cake during the cooling process the cake with “fall” or become condensed, rather than airy and fluffy.

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One Step Italian Meringue Frosting
Ingredients

3 egg whites, at room temperature

1 cup, plus 2 Tbsp sugar

3 Tbsp cold water

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

In a medium sized saucepan, bring 3 inches of water to a gentle simmer. Combine all the ingredients in a large metal bowl. Place the bowl over the saucepan and using a hand mixer, beat together the ingredients on a low speed for 5 minutes.

Increase the speed to high and beat for 4 more minutes, or until the mixture has become very thick and shiny. Remove the bowl from the heat and beat for an additional 4 minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy.

Once the champagne cake has cooled completely, remove from the cake pan and frost with the meringue. Serve immediately.

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A Tasty Trio of Christmas Cookies

*This article was originally posted on www.Somerville.Patch.com*

Three cookie recipes that are sure to impress any crowd at any party or serve as the perfect last minute gift.

‘Tis the season of frantic gift shopping, decking the halls, and of course, holiday baking! As we get down to the wire on holiday baking, here are three cookie recipes that are sure to impress any crowd at any party or serve as the perfect last minute gift.

Before getting started here’s a quick kitchen tune-up to make sure you’re ready to go:

  • After selecting the recipe, read through it carefully to make sure you have any equipment needed.
  • Take stock of the ingredients and make a thorough list of what you need to buy and what you already have—there’s nothing worse that taking extra trips to the store this time of year!
  • Are the ingredients you have relatively fresh? Some ingredients (such as spices or sprinkles) are ok to sit on your shelf for a while, but others, such as baking soda or brown sugar, can actually become stale.
  • If your baking soda or baking powder has been on your shelf for more than a year, replace it.
  • When you’re ready to start baking, begin by wiping down all the surfaces you will be working on in the kitchen and getting out all the ingredients and equipment that is needed.
  • Read the recipe all the way through one more time before starting.

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Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies

Ingredients
1/2 c unsalted butter
1/2 c creamy peanut butter
1/2 c granulated sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Hershey Kisses to top cookies

Using a stand or hand mixer beat together the butter, peanut butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until well combined. Next add the egg to the mixture. Stop the mixer to scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.

Slowly add in the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon). Once all the ingredients have been combined chill the dough in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

After the dough has been chilled preheat the oven to 375. Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and place 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 8-10 minutes. After taking the cookies out of the oven place a Hershey Kiss in the center of the cookie while still warm.

Yields about 3 dozen cookies.

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Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Ingredients
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 c granulated sugar
1/2 c vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 oz. unsweetened baker’s chocolate, melted
2 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 c confectioner’s sugar

Using a stand or hand mixer beat together the eggs, sugar, oil, and vanilla until well combined. Next add the melted chocolate to the mixture. Stop the mixer to scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.

Slowly add in the flour and baking powder. Once all the ingredients have been combined chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

After the dough has chilled preheat the oven to 375. Pour the confectioner’s sugar into a medium-sized bowl. Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and generously coat in confectioner’s sugar by rolling the dough balls in the bowl of sugar. Place the dough 1 inch apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10 minutes.

Yields about 3 dozen cookies.

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Peppermint Swirl Cookies

Ingredients
3 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 c granulated sugar
1/2 c butter
1 egg, beaten
Red food coloring
Green food coloring
2 tsp mint extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

To create a tri-colored, swirled effect the dough needs to be made in three batches. In a bowl beat 1 egg until it is frothy and the yolk and white are combined. Using a measuring cup, separate the egg into 3 equal parts (to be used for each batch).

To make the first batch start by sifting together 1 cup of the flour and 2/3 teaspoon of baking powder, in a medium sized mixing bowl. Next, using a stand or hand mixer, in a separate bowl beat together 1/3 cup of sugar and 5 1/3 tablespoons of butter.

Once the butter and sugar are combined add one of the parts of beaten egg that was set aside and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the dough and mix just until the ingredients are combined. Scrape the dough out onto a sheet of wax paper and set aside.

For the second and third batches of dough follow the instructions in the paragraphs above with the following exceptions;

For the red dough; after mixing in the egg add drops of red food coloring until the desired shade of red is achieved. Instead of vanilla extract use 1 teaspoon of mint extract.

For the green dough; after mixing in the egg add drops of red food coloring until the desired shade of green is achieved. Instead of vanilla extract use 1 teaspoon of mint extract.

Once all three batches of dough have been made it is time to roll them out. Starting with the vanilla dough, roll out the dough so that it stays on the sheet of wax paper. The dough should be rolled out so that it is longer and in an oval or rectangular shape about 1/8 of an inch thick. Set the vanilla dough aside.

Next roll out the red or green dough in between two sheets of wax paper into a similar shape as the vanilla dough. After rolling out the colored dough remove one of the sheets of wax paper and place the dough on top of the vanilla dough. Remove the remaining layer of wax paper.

Repeat this step for the other batch of colored dough so that you have all three rolled out and on top of each other. Keeping the dough in one sheet of wax paper, roll the dough into a narrow log to create the spiral effect of the three colors. Chill in the freezer for 1 hour.

After the dough has been chilled preheat the oven to 350. Take the sheet of wax paper off of the log of dough and place on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife slice the log of dough into cookies that are 1/4 inch thick and place 1 inch apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Yields about 3 dozen cookies.

Cranberry Relish

 

 

 

Today’s recipe is a family tradition; every year at Thanksgiving we make this cranberry relish that my Dad had every Thanksgiving when he was growing up. This recipe is fresh tasting and best when made a day or two before Thanksgiving to really allow the flavors to mingle.

 

 

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Cranberry Relish

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb fresh cranberries, washed and drained
  • 1 large orange
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 can crushed pineapple, drained
  • ½ c toasted pecans or walnuts (optional)
  • 1 c organic sugar

Directions:

Wash the orange and lemon and cut up into small chunks (peel and all) and remove seeds. Pat dry the crushed pineapple with paper towels to remove any excess juice.  Put cranberries, orange and lemon pieces, pineapple, and nuts (if using them) into food processor. Pulse for 10-15 seconds and stop to scrape the sides. Continue to pulse and scraping the sides until all ingredients are chopped finely. Be careful not to over-process or the texture will be too mushy, the relish should maintain a course texture.

Pour the relish into a medium sized mixing bowl and using a spoon stir in the sugar a ½ cup at a time. Since cranberries can vary in tartness, taste the relish after adding the first ½ cup of sugar to determine if the other half is needed. Continue to add sugar until desired sweetness is achieved. Chill in the refrigerator for 24 hours before serving.

Holiday Recipe: Cake Balls

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*This article was originally posted on www.Somerville.Patch.com*

These trendy, bite-sized desserts are easy to make great for holiday parties.

It feels like cake balls and cake pops have been appearing everywhere lately. These small servings of cake that have been dipped in chocolate are even available at Starbucks now. As it turns out, these adorable treats are actually not so hard to make at home!

They can be made with any cake recipe (from scratch or box), an easy cream-cheese frosting to hold the cake together, and melted chocolate. Cake balls also can be decorated in any which way or left in just a coating of melted chocolate.

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Cake Balls

Ingredients

1box of cake mix

8 ounces cream cheese (not reduced fat)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 bag of chocolate chips

In a well greased 9×13 pan bake your favorite cake. Whether it’s your grandma’s fudge cake or fun-fetti, any cake will do. I selected a red velvet cake for this batch. After the cake is finished baking and a tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean, cover the cake with a dish towel and put on a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cake cools whip up some cream cheese frosting. The frosting will be used to hold the cake together and give it its shape. Using a stand or hand mixer beat together the cream cheese and butter. Once the two are well combined turn your mixer on low and slowly add the confectioner’s sugar. Stop the mixer to scrape the sides of the bowl, and add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Then turn the mixer on medium-high and beat for 2-3 minutes.

Once the cake is completely cooled and your frosting is ready it’s time to turn your sheet cake into balls of cake. Cut the cake into four equal sections and put one section into a large mixing bowl. Using a fork shred the section of cake until it is completely crumbled. Continue to do this one fourth at a time until the entire cake is crumbled finely.

Next, add the prepared frosting to the bowl of cake crumbs. Using a fork work the frosting into the crumbs until the cake and frosting are combined. Even if you are using a chocolate cake, the frosting will eventually blend into the cake. Using a small ice cream scoop to measure, roll the crumbs into balls that are 1 ½ inches in diameter and place on a baking sheet. Finally, put the sheet of cake balls into the freezer for 1 hour.

After the cake balls have been in the freezer for an hour it’s time to coat the cake in chocolate. To prepare the chocolate coating you’ll need to melt a bag of chocolate chips over a double boiler. Fill a medium sized sauce pan with 2 inches of water and place the half of the chocolate chips in a high-heat friendly bowl.

Put the bowl on top of the sauce pan, the bowl should be well above the water. Turn on the burner to medium heat and stir the chocolate as it melts. Using a double boiler (versus melting the chocolate in the microwave) is better for melting chocolate because it allows you to control the temperature.

Sometimes when chocolate is being melted it gets hot too quickly and turns into a thick and pasty texture, this is called breaking. If the chocolate starts to break remove your chocolate from heat and stir in either a splash (very small amount) of milk or vegetable oil and gently work it into the chocolate. This will smooth out the texture.

Next, coat the cake balls by putting one cake ball into the melted chocolate and gently covering using a spoon and fork to maneuver the cake ball in chocolate. Once evenly coated place the cake ball on the baking sheet. If you are topping the cake ball with any decorations, do so before the chocolate hardens. Topping suggestions: sprinkles, crushed candy canes, melted white chocolate, or chopped nuts.

Pumpkin Frankenstein Muffins

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*Article originally posted on www.Somverville.Patch.com*

A monster mash of delicious fall flavors!

These muffins certainly don’t look like Frankenstein, but this month when I sought out to create the ultimate pumpkin muffin recipe, I decided to borrow bits and pieces from other muffin recipes I had tried in the past.

First, let me explain my ideal muffin. To me the most important qualities in a muffin are a fantastic flavor and a texture that isn’t too heavy and is in no way dry. I’m also looking for a muffin that doesn’t make me feel guilty, but isn’t so healthy that I feel like I’m eating saw dust.

I started by looking at three different muffin recipes. The first was your typical, straight-up unhealthy but still delicious pumpkin muffin, the next was a stripped-down recipe that included whole wheat flour and a ton of pumpkin, and the third was a Morning Glory muffin.

Morning Glory muffins vary a lot but generally they tend to be a healthy breakfast muffin, often containing fruit, veggies, seeds and/or nuts. Between the three different approaches to making muffins, I had a lot to work with. I also had the idea to incorporate Greek yogurt so that the muffins had a tiny bit of protein in them.

After a few failed attempts and some mediocre results, I finally created a recipe that was yielding the kind of muffin I was dreaming of. I settled on using half whole wheat flour and half all-purpose flour. I wanted whole wheat flour in there so the muffin would have some fiber, but not so much that the flavor was overpowering.

I also decided that sifting the dry ingredients together and then gently folding them into the wet ingredients was imperative to yield the right kind of texture that wasn’t too heavy. The sifting and the gentle folding technique helps keep the overall texture of the muffins lighter.

I also experimented with adding applesauce and carrots in the batter. The applesauce ended up overpowering the pumpkin flavor and in the end had to be cut from the recipe. The carrots added no flavor and seemed like a sneaky way to get some extra veggies in.

A quick note on the pumpkin puree: This time of year it is easy to find a can of already cooked and pureed pumpkin and works very well for this recipe. If you are feeling a little more hands-on, pumpkin puree can also be easily made at home.

To do this you’ll need 1-2 small baking pumpkins (not the same as the ones you would use for making jack-o-lanterns). Using a sharp knife, remove the stem and slice the pumpkin in half length-wise. Scrape out the center pulp and seeds.

Next, place the pumpkin halves on a baking sheet and roast in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. The pumpkin will be a light golden brown when done. Peel the skin from the pumpkin and puree the pumpkin in a food processer until smooth. If it looks too dry, add in a few tablespoons of water during the pulsing to add moisture.

 

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Pumpkin Frankenstein Muffins
Ingredients:
2 eggs
1/2 c plain greek yogurt (2% or full fat)
1 c brown sugar
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
2 grated carrots
1 c whole wheat flour
1 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
1 tsp baking soda

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a mixing bowl sift together the whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.

In a separate mixing bowl use a whisk to beat the eggs until frothy and light in color. Next whisk in the yogurt until well combined followed by the brown sugar, whisking in ½ a cup at a time. Finally whisk in the pumpkin puree and grated carrots.

Now it is time to combine the dry and wet ingredients. Begin by adding a third of the dry ingredients to the wet. Use a spatula to gently fold the ingredients together until well combined. Once the mixture is homogenous, continue to fold in the remainder of the dry ingredients in a third at a time.

Finally using a 1/3 c measuring cup, scoop the batter into a lined muffin pan. This recipe yields 18-20 muffins. Bake for 20-25 minutes. When the muffins are finished a tooth pick inserted into the center will come out clean.